The Gnomon and Mt Duncan (26/12/20)

The Dial range is a low altitude mountain range just south of Penguin, contained in a collection of reserves. The area is a popular spot for hiking and mountain biking, and offers an impressive escape to nature from the surrounding towns and farmland. Much of the forest is managed by ‘Sustainable’ Timbers Tasmania, and is threatened by clearfell logging (with a section set to be logged in 2022). I have visited the coupe set to be logged at an earlier date, before I had ever walked the many tracks in the area, and had made a mental note to be return to the Dial range as soon as possible to explore further.

The road we followed into coupe DL011C
Devil scat in coupe DL011C
Tall eucalypts in coupe DL011C
Evidence of a bettong digging for fungi in coupe DL011C

The Dial range consists of 6 peaks, Mt Montgomery, Mt Dial, The Gnomon (or Mt Gnomon), Mt Riana, Mt Duncan and Mt Lorymer, extending from Penguin down south. Tackling them all in a single day would be a real challenge, so I opted to only climb the two most impressive peaks. The Gnomon has an extensive curved cliff-face and Mt Duncan is the highest altitude peak in the range.

I had camped Christmas night at Pioneer Park in Riana, and drove up to Penguin before heading back down Ironcliffe Road and onto Hales Road (still marked as Ironcliffe Road on LISTmap). If you have a 4WD you can decrease the time of this journey significantly by driving up Cookes Road, just near Pioneer Park, reaching the carpark in about a third of the time. Unfortunately, this road is seriously not accessible for 2 wheel drive vehicles. I left on foot from the Mt Dial Track carpark in un-summery dreary weather, heading up the Mt Dial track to summit The Gnomon first. The track is rather unforgiving, being intensely steep right from the first step.

A (flatter) section of The Gnomon Track (Mt Dial Track)
Tall eucalypts from The Gnomon Track (Mt Dial Track)

The forest along this section is quite open with some impressive eucalypts and grass triggerplants (stylidium graminifolium) dotted along the side of the track. I reached the summit in under 30 minutes and had a quick break to absorb the view out to Mt Duncan, Mt Riana, and the farmland down below.

Mt Duncan with Mt Lorymer in the distance, from the top of The Gnomon
Some type of wasp/sawfly on the summit of The Gnomon. An ID for this would be greatly appreciated.

I expected to be alone for the day due to the weather, but coming back down I ran into 3 other groups climbing up. Halfway down I turned onto the aptly named Tall Trees Track that would connect to the Mt Duncan Track. Along this track, after passing under the intimidating cliffs of The Gnomon, I entered into an unexpected rainforest. Indeed there are many tall trees in here, though not just eucalypts. There are many impressive myrtles (nothofagus cunninghamii) scattered along the track, and possibly the biggest sassafras trees (atherosperma moschatum) I have ever seen.

Giant rock on the Tall Trees Track
Looking up at The Gnomon through the trees from the Tall Trees Track
The Tall Trees Track
Very large tree ferns along the Tall Trees Track

The forest only became more beautiful as I continued along the undulating track, crossing many creeks. I stopped at a few points to admire the plants and watch for some birds. At one point I was watching a pair of thornbills jumping around in a tree, before a pair of scrubtits came to join them. This being the first time I have spotted a scrubtit I didn’t think I could get any luckier, but a male golden whistler soon landed in the tree as well. If you’ve never seen a golden whistler before, these birds are a spectacular (almost unbelievable) golden colour, and have a serene whistling song.

Not long after watching these birds I came out onto Dial Creek Road, and crossed over to the Mt Duncan Track. Much like the climb to The Gnomon, the Mt Duncan Track is immensely steep. Although, it passes through even more beautiful forest, especially close to the summit. Mt Duncan seems to have some sort of rainforest microbiome at its peak, with the forest floor covered by blechnum ferns and the surrounding forest much more wet than it was further down. From the summit I could take in the full scale of the cliffs of The Gnomon, and see all the way out to the coast at Penguin despite the cloudy weather.

The Gnomon cliffs from Mt Duncan.
View out to the east from the top of Mt Duncan
View out to the west from the top of Mt Duncan

The wind was blowing heavily at the peak so I didn’t stick around too long. I walked/slid back down the track, veering off to another track halfway down that would connect me back up to Hales Road. Once out on the road, I passed some people in 4WD’s and followed the road all the way back to my car. Here I made the assessment that my car definitely couldn’t have made it any further than where it was parked, though two 2WD’s tried while I was here, and both made a quick return.

The Dial Range is a fantastic area for both biodiversity and human recreation, especially in an area with so much cleared land. I am sure that the future clearfell logging in the Dial Range is not well known, and I am sure it would be upsetting for many to hear that this important reserve and its wild inhabitants are under threat.


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